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History of the 1955-1958 Sunbeam Rapier I
The Sunbeam Rapier Series I boasted two-door hardtop coupe bodywork and was powered by a 1.4-liter OHV four. It featured worm and nut steering and a 4-speed gearbox. Front suspension was by independent coil and wishbone with rear semi-elliptic leaf springs and a live axle. The brakes were drums front and back. Top speed was 85 mph and a 0-60 mph was possible in around 22 seconds.
The Rapier was launched in October of 1955 as the first of the ‘Audax’ series of medium sized Rootes Group cars. It was a clever marketing decision that would lend the Hillman ‘New Minx’ of 1956 glamour by proxy. The new Sunbeam was not cheap for such a small car but a major aspect of its appeal was in its pillarless styling reminiscent of the 1953 Studebaker Starliner. It was also relatively well appointed. The standard equipment included a cigarette lighter, overdrive, leather seats and two-tone paint finish. Optional extras included a heater, clock, tachometer and windscreen washers.
One complaint from Rapier owners was its lack of oomph, so in October of 1956 the Stromberg carburettor was replaced by twin Zenith 36 WIPs, which raised top speed to 88 mph. A test by Motor in 1957 mused that “the new owner is probably one who appreciates an attractive and well-finished two-door saloon” and noted “the attention to detail in comfort, trim, and silence.” The Sunbeam’s appeal was further enhanced when a Rapier won the Special Touring Class up to 1600cc in the 1956 Mille Miglia and achieved a class victory in the 1957 Tulip Rally. Peter Harper also drove a works-prepared Sunbeam Rapier Series I to fifth place in the 1958 Monte Carlo rally. In 1958, the Rapier Series II arrived.
The Rapier Series I is a delightful touring car as long as you don’t expect blistering performance, and it’s a fascinating example of American styling cues scaled down for the British suburban motorist.
1958 sunbeam rapier I Info
4-cyl. 1390cc/67.5hp 2x1bbl
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